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Becoming a Certified School Nurse

Are you caring, sympathetic and enjoy working with children or adolescents? Do you have a knack for teaching kids about hygiene and healthcare? If caring for children is your passion, you may want to consider becoming a certified school nurse.

Earning a school nurse certification from the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN) can help increase your chances of finding your ideal job and may give you the competitive edge when competing with other nurses. To be eligible to sit for the school nurse certification, an RN must have a bachelor’s degree and at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice during the previous three years. Below we will discuss some of the other factors you should think about when considering a school nursing job and certification.

Knowing the Resources

Potential school nurses can benefit from the resources of the National Association of School Nurses. Originally formed in 1968 as a division of the National Education Association, this nonprofit organization has been “dedicated to the advancement of school nursing practice and the health of school-aged children.” The Association expanded and matured, eventually becoming independent in 1979. Today, the NASN remains the largest association of school nurses, involved in a host of health promotion and disease maintenance endeavors related to:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Substance abuse
  • Childhood diabetes
  • Skin cancer prevention

The association offers many ways to enhance your knowledge base. Through the online learning library, nurses can benefit from various topics, such as updates on insulin, adolescent vaccines, ways to handle things like sexting and cyber bullying, and the management of seizures in the classroom setting. Evidence-based continuing education (CE) programs are offered as well, such as SETT (School Emergency Triage Training). Finally, the annual conference, held each year at summer’s beginning, offers both CE programs and networking opportunities. The NASN 44th Annual Conference will be held June 23-26, 2012 in San Francisco.

Scope of Practice

The school nurse acts as health educator, often leading the way in emergency management and crisis responses. Aware of federal laws protecting children and youth with disabilities, the nurse attends to the growth and development of the well child from preschool-adolescent, and the episodic illnesses of these children (such as lice, sunburns and other common complaints). Caring for school age children with chronic health issues, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, mental retardation, and asthma, is also within the scope of practice. Via the NASN website, one can find countless “strategies for enhancing the school nurse’s ability to take a leadership role in impacting all school health programs.”

The Next Step – Certification

NASN works in collaboration with the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN). Certification is a voluntary step, but is widely considered to “represent a national standard of preparation, knowledge and practice.” NBCSN has trademarked ‘NCSN’ as the official credential of a National Certified School Nurse. All candidates successfully completing the national examination are eligible to use this credential. Learn more about NBCSN and the national school nurse certification exam: www.nbcsn.org.

Who Hires a School Nurse?

When looking for a job, think creatively. Search public and private schools, as well as Departments of Health and the college/university system. The NASN can provide a level of assistance as various job openings are posted at the request of employers seeking to reach school nurses. Employers pay a fee to post the listing, but individuals seeking employment are not permitted to post individual requests. Just be advised: the NASN does not assume any responsibility for placing applicants with prospective employers.

Additional employment resources include a comprehensive list of NASN affiliate chapters: 51 chapters in 49 states, the District of Columbia and oversees. Each chapter lists the corresponding website, the name of the State Chapter President and their term of office, to foster networking.

Get Started Today

A career as a school nurse can be challenging, but at the same time extremely rewarding. If you are interested in becoming a certified school nurse but do not yet have your BSN, consider looking to an online RN to BSN program. Online programs offer the convenience and flexibility that today’s nurses require when considering furthering their careers. If you already have your bachelor’s degree, visit the NBCSN website to find out how to get started on an exciting new career path.

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